Coming home with the kids the other day, I noticed a lone Canada goose in a neighbor’s yard. It’s not unusual to see Canada geese in our neighborhood. There are non-migratory flocks of them that reside here. In the spring, they nest down by the ponds; and we watch as their fuzzy brown and yellow offspring emerge. In the summer, they seem to idle away their time by pooping all over the t-ball and soccer fields. In the fall, they float lazily on the pond water before it freezes. And then, in the winter, they walk the streets looking for grass springing up from beneath the snow. They are ubiquitous.
But, a lone Canada goose is a rare sight. Geese are very social creatures and are almost always in the company of other geese. I first noted the goose up the street a few houses away. Yesterday, I saw it wandering in the neighbor’s yard, finding grass across the street on the sunny side. This morning, I was sitting in bed reading (oh, okay…I was playing Angry Birds…ironic, no?) and I watched it fly onto the open space behind our house, walk out a bit, and then curl up to nap.
I’m obnoxiously curious by nature, so my brain has been troubled for days with questions about what this goose is doing on its own. I know it’s wrong to anthropomorphize, but it looks so depressed. I told hubby this morning that I thought it needed a hug. Its lone wanderings have been vexing me, so today I finally broke down and did some research as to why a Canada goose would be off on its own like this. Here’s what I found on a site called http://www.canadageese.org in response to a question someone else posed about a lone goose:
“There are three common explanations for your observation. The first possibility only applies in the spring during nesting season. Many people report seeing a lone goose hanging around a particular area. Typically the bird is a gander (the male) standing guard with a well-concealed mate on a nest nearby — he only appears to be alone. The second possible explanation is that the goose you observed has lost his or her mate. Geese are known to mourn by staying by themselves for a while. Possible explanation 3: He was injured shortly before arriving on the scene and his internal injuries brought him down. If this goose appears to be healthy (and appears to be finding food and eating), then there is nothing to worry about and no need to do anything.”
Our goose appears to be healthy. It is eating. It can fly. It’s not nesting season and, even if it was, our house is nowhere near the ponds where these birds usually nest. All this leads me to the conclusion that our lone bird isn’t just alone but is indeed lonely.
A few years ago, I was about to merge onto the highway when I saw a car ahead of me hit a Canada goose. It was ugly. I will never forget watching the other birds react as the dying bird flailed about. As I slowed to drive around the geese, I heard excessive honking and saw one bird standing close by the injured bird as it suffered. Later, I drove by again and saw one lone goose standing over the now dead bird. It stayed behind when the flock left to mourn its loss.
Normally, I find these birds a complete nuisance. They cross the street in droves, and I complain unendingly as I wait for them to meander out of my way. Knowing what I now know, however, I am looking at them in a slightly different light and I am starting to wonder if I should approach all things in my life with a bit more softness. Perhaps when I see something unusual I should take time to investigate rather than immediately making assumptions as I am wont to do. Maybe some of those really grumpy people I run into are dealing with things I don’t understand. Maybe, like that solitary goose, they are coping with a painful loss. I suppose it wouldn’t kill me to give people the same compassion I am giving to the goose who is right now resting in the snow across the street in our neighbor’s yard.
Do you ever get caught up in useless thoughts about how you envisioned your life would turn out versus where you’ve actually landed? When we’re young and the world seems full of possibility, we dream big because there’s nothing standing in the way of our potential greatness. I had dreams of having an impressive career, making oodles of money, and carrying business cards with an incredibly important-sounding title. I never once imagined that my business card title would be “Stay At Home Mom.” I planned to be too busy being fabulous and brilliant, traveling the world, and decorating my impressive home to have time to be so humdrum. Well, lately those old school dreams for myself have reared their ugly head far more than I would like them to. I suppose it’s happening more frequently because I’ve reached the dreaded middle age. (Oh how I hate saying those words. Seems like just yesterday that I was doing too many shots on my 21st birthday and spending the next morning with my face in the commode. But, I digress.)
I had a conversation today with a good friend. I have a love/hate relationship with my friend because he appears to have everything I thought I ever wanted for myself. Although I am genuinely happy for him and for all he’s been able to achieve, I’m afraid I am a bit of a baby when I hear details about things in his life that I wish were part of mine. I wish I could be above it all and not be envious, but that seems a Sisyphean task. I would like to the successful friend with the gorgeous home, world travel stories, and academic letters after my name. But, that’s not my life, like it or not.
I’ve been trying to be adult about the whole thing, but I’m afraid I’ve failed miserably. It’s impossible to be positively zen when you can’t stop considering that you might have realized more with your talents if you had applied yourself. I do know that it’s useless to comparison shop in other people’s lives, but it’s human nature. We always want the things that we don’t have. The grass is always greener elsewhere, right? It’s especially greener where we envisioned ourselves but were unsuccessful in securing property rights.
Today, though, there was a point in our conversation when my friend held up a mirror and asked me to look into it. I’m often entirely wrapped up in how others appear (or at least how their lives appear from the outside) and I fail to contemplate how I might present to others. I figure that everyone sees me as a common, stay-at-home mom because that’s how I see myself. I drive the kids to school, get to the gym, do laundry, clean house, run errands, schedule appointments, and at the end of the day settle down to help with homework, make lunches, and tackle other minutiae. Frankly, I bore myself to tears just thinking about it.
But, maybe my thinking is skewed? My friend contends that to others my life might appear to be anything but lackluster. He pointed out that I am always going and doing something. Riding my bike on long treks. Participating in athletic events. Heading up to the mountains to ski or snowshoe with my boys. Learning new things and taking on new challenges. Raising money for charities. And, while I may not be a globetrotter, I have traveled some. I live in a comfortable home, drive a nice car, and have a plethora of amazing and fun friends. I guess that if I were to step back from my disappointment in things I have not achieved, I might be able to recognize that I’m still something more than ordinary. I might not be rich, famous, or important on a grand scale, but I’m quite lucky just the same.
So, today I resolve to stop berating myself for not becoming what 21 year old me envisioned I would be. I will remind myself that 21 year old me was immature, unwise in the ways of the world or even in the ways of herself. I will remember not what I am missing but rather how I am blessed. I will stop comparing myself to others, no matter how wonderful their lives appear, because I have no idea what their journeys are about. And I will focus on my true reflection in the mirror and give myself the Stuart Smalley speech: “I am good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it…people like me.”
(This blog was originally entitled Run, Jus, Run but upon a second reading of it I realize it’s more about the little things that get us moving than about my actual attempt at running. So, let’s go with that.)
Just a short entry today because I’m inspired to go run. Yes. Run. I never run. In fact, my regular statement when asked if I run is that I only run when being chased (preferably by a small yappy dog and not by a mountain lion). But, yesterday a friend of mine posted a link to this blog by a guy who is a weight loss/life change superstar. On Jess’ stellar recommendation, I checked it out.
Oh. My. God. If doing so wouldn’t get me arrested for stalking, I would track this guy down and follow him around every day just to experience his energy. I have a feeling that he could create a positive experience out of standing in line at the IRS to hand them an appallingly large check for back taxes. And, to top it off, he’s absolutely darling. Consider these three things: 1) he’s cute, 2) he’s funny, and 3) he loves his grandma and his running partners are his dad and his brother. Can I get a collaborative “Awwwwwwwww”?
The web site is called Ben Does Life, and it is well worth investigating. Make sure you watch the video called “My 120 Pound Journey” in the About Me section. This young man went from couch potato to Ironman in two years. If I can’t run a 5k by summer, I am hopeless.
Firing up the iPod and heading out with the dog now. It’s going to be a slow, ugly, and unpleasant mile marked by copious profanity, but I’m going to do it because Jus does life too.
For years now I have been knocking things off my to-do list, most often big, nerve-testing things that have brought me greater confidence and a better understanding of myself. But, I’ve realized recently that some things that have been grand adventures were never on my list to begin with. Some of the smallest choices I’ve made have brought the greatest, most unexpected joy and taught me the biggest lessons.
Years ago, my oldest son asked me for a turtle. I’m not anti-reptile, so I told him I’d think about it and did some research. Turns out that a common box turtle, the kind you would get from a pet store for your son for example, can live for thirty years. Deciding I did not want to be moving into a nursing home with a turtle (which, let’s face it, is the probable outcome of that scenario), I gently nudged my darling son towards a different pet.
After a lot of discussion, we decided to get a tadpole and grow ourselves a frog. The tadpole experiment was far more interesting than I imagined it would be. For weeks, we waited to see some limbs develop. I swear I was more excited than Joe was when we first noticed legs beginning to form. Over the couple months of development, we anticipated the time when we would begin to feed him “real” food. Real food, it turns out, is live crickets. That took some mental finagling on my part. I was all for a frog pet but was not really thinking about how keeping a frog pet meant that I would have to keep cricket pets as well.
When the tadpole was starting to lose its tail, I began the odious task of raising crickets. I decided they would have to live in the garage; I pay an exterminator way too much money to keep bugs out of my house to move some into my house intentionally. I bought the smallest crickets I could get because our frog was still very small as well. Finally, when most of his tadpole tail was gone and he was starting to come out of the water for longer periods of time, I dropped a couple crickets in with him and crossed my fingers.
For days I watched that frog, but it would not eat the stupid, teeny crickets. I checked on it every couple hours. I was starting to fret that froggy might not make it so I decided to visit the pet store to see if there was something else he might eat. I went in to check on him before I left and found he was dead.
I was heartbroken. I cried over the loss of that little frog, sobbed and carried on in what had to be one of the world’s ugliest cries ever. I was the one who had convinced Joe that he needed a frog, and then I starved the poor creature to death. I had failed as both froggy parent and real parent. And then I had to pull myself together, go pick up my son from school, and tell him the horrible news. Sensitive boy that he is, he was convinced that it was his fault. We spent hours discussing life and death, crying, and finally burying that frog out on the open space behind our house. We decided no more small pets for a while.
Then, a year ago I saw our next adventure in a Brookstone store. It was a small aquarium holding two tiny, aquatic frogs. The frogs eat (get this) food pellets and not live anything. I knew that we might finally be able to put the great tadpole experiment behind us and have a potentially more positive amphibian experience.
So, in addition to four people and one neurotic border collie, we’ve had four African Dwarf frogs in our house since last May. These frogs are more my pets than my boys’ pets, and I am fine with that. I love those little frogs. I love them more than any creature has loved a frog since Miss Piggy worshipped Kermit. I am rather partial to Luke’s frogs, who seem to recognize my voice and swim over to see me when I come to their aquarium. Splashy and Swimmy love classical music and especially enjoy swimming to Beethoven’s 9th. Every day those silly frogs make me smile. They are constant reminders that sometimes life’s most rewarding and educational adventures are the small ones that we don’t plan for.